DRAMATIZES BEHAVIOR OF TWO TEEN-AGERS TO ILLUSTRATE CHARACTERISTICS OF PERSONALITY WHICH LEAD TO POPULARITY & SUCCESS IN DATING. CONTRASTS CAROLYN, ATTRACTIVE NEWCOMER IN HIGH SCHOOL, WITH GINNY, WHO IS WILLING TO DATE ALL THE BOYS BUT IS UNPOPULAR WITH BOTH BOYS & GIRLS. SHOWS HOW CAROLYN & WALLY ARE CAREFUL OF THEIR APPEARANCE, POLITE, CONSIDERATE IN ARRANGING DATES, ETC.
As World War II ended, the wars at home began. It was time for women to yield their wartime jobs to men, for cities to stagnate and suburbs to blossom, for wartime friends of Russia to turn their backs on communism, and for kids to be kids again.
As elsewhere in the world, American youth bore the brunt of the nation's wartime social problems. While parents were shipped overseas or worked long hours in defense plants, kids were often left to shift for themselves. Many dropped out of school and took factory jobs themselves. Juvenile crime and delinquency increased dramatically and was publicized as a major social problem. Teenagers indulged in considerable sexual self-expression and made headlines for doing so, especially the "Victory Girls" who slept with servicemen. Finally, a feeling swept the country of the young that nothing mattered, that there was no future worth living for.
The state of America's families and youth was watched closely during the war by professional observers: sociologists, educators, psychologists, criminologists and the anthropologist Margaret Mead. Books and journals of the period were filled with musings, plans and recommendations. Many people were anxious to avoid the kind of social disintegration that World War I was said to have created Ñ a Twenties-type "lost generation" of hedonistic, sexually expressive, alcoholic nihilists.
This worry was met with a nationwide behavior offensive aiming to restore family values through education and training. Between 1945 and 1960, hundreds of films dealing with family dynamics, social guidance, etiquette and manners, behavior, child and adolescent development were produced for the educational film market. The films on this disc, selected from over 200 such films held in the Prelinger Archives, express both the substance and flavor of this social crusade.
Although in some respects the authorities behind these films really did seek to make the nation a better place for children to live, there were limits to their vision. Required to produce product that wouldn't offend educators or parents in any state, they constructed an all-Caucasian world where women and men underwent a continual learning process as to their appropriate position in society. And even though some parents and children in these films seem to be working-class, the setting, values and aspirations are almost universally suburban middle- or upper-middle class. Even the fearful Fifties wasn't nearly as quiet as these films make it out to be. So although these films appear to be fascinating evidence as to how things were, the evidence is deeply flawed. It's helpful to remember that ephemeral films can't really be called documentaries; they picture a world that never really existed, a vision of how their makers saw the world and how they wanted this world to be.
However dated, reactionary and even ridiculous some of these films may seem today, their guiding impulses were often well-motivated and idealistic. The end of the war climaxed a long period of social stresses in the United States: the massive familial and personal disruptions caused by the war had been preceded by twelve years of economic depression, which themselves were preceded by the turbulent Twenties, a time of economic boom for a relatively small number of people. Perhaps some of the extremes in these films can be understood in the context of one great and not-so-hidden fear: had the American family become an obsolete relic?
Even though films like Are You Popular? are some of the funniest artifacts of postwar times, they reveal a world in which few turn-of-the-century beings like us could survive. There seems to be no room for unconventional or unusual behavior. Ruthless cliques govern lunchrooms, extracurricular activities and social gathering spots. Women (who are portrayed as princesses or sluts) ÒrepayÓ boys with milk and cookies for entertaining them, and are complimented on their observance of social graces. ÒLook at you, all ready and right on time too; thatÕs a good deal, Ó says Wally to Caroline. Even Caroline's friendly parents seem condemned to a life sentence of introductions, evening newspapers and "tricking" one another to go out to dinner.
Despite its engaging, almost "interactive" title (recalling many other educational films like Are You a Good Citizen?, Am I Trustworthy? and Are You Ready for Marriage?) this film is about much more than popularity, and that's what makes it a candidate for the mid-century time capsule. In just ten minutes, this little film touches on sexual mores, appropriate limits of female behavior, cliques and in-groups (the "Heathers" syndrome), telephone and date etiquette for girls and boys, kinship and the distribution of power within the family, the evils of going steady, and the importance of good physical hygiene. It also offers subtle hints on how to suck up to parents and presents many well-crafted vignettes on daily life in middle-class suburbia.
Like many utopias, Are You Popular? is not constructed in depth; it has the subtlety and detail of a textbook illustration Ñ one might call it low-budget (or maybe low-resolution) realism. It takes place neither in schools nor houses, but on a set built in the Coronet studios located on the Glenview, Illinois estate of company head David A. Smart. The backgrounds are simple so as not to detract from the narrative. The actors are neither too attractive nor too ungainly, encouraging all audience members to identify with their personae. Another subtle touch of realism: Caroline and her mother are, in fact, a real mother and daughter. Are You Popular? was an early Coronet dramatic production and despite the characteristic Coronet flatness and simplicity turned into a budget fiasco, largely because it was shot over a longer period of time. No subsequent Coronet production took as long to shoot.
Are You Popular? presented a complete story with beginning, middle and end, all within ten minutes. From its beginnings, Coronet made these little narratives much more frequently than other producers, enlivening such banal subjects as making change for a dollar, writing better business letters and safe use of tools. This particular film was such a success that it was remade with almost exactly the same script in 1957, using new and updated actors and sets.
Of this film, Educational Screen (May 1948) said, ÒA subtle and skillfully-arranged presentation of many details which, taken together, go a long way in determining a personÕs popularity, this film should be invaluable for stimulating discussion, as well as for presenting information. It could well be used with student groups on the junior and senior high school levels and with parent groups as a basis for discussion programs of several types. Both Caroline and Wally present excellent examples of good grooming, good posture, interest in and consideration for others, good manners both in public and in the privacy of their homes, regard for their parents, well-modulated voices, promptness, and foresight in making arrangements. The cast is well chosen, and the photography and sound are good.Ó
Ken Smith sez: One of THE classic boy-dates-girl films. Caroline Ames is popular with the gang because "they've heard no scandal about her." "Ginny," on the other hand, "a crude looking and acting girl," messes around and is shunned by the hypocritical and elitist teens. "Girls who park in cars are not really popular," explains the narrator. Wally Johnson asks Caroline out for a date (Teen Town or weenie roast?) and we quickly understand why teens of their type deserve all the happiness and respect the post-war world can muster. "He is proud to be with Caroline because she looks well." An exceptionally entertaining film. The "weenie roast" also plays a pivotal role in What To Do On A Date.
The Educational Screen teacher evaluation committee praised Caroline and Wally: "Both present excellent examples of good grooming, good posture, interest in and consideration for others, good manners both in public and in the privacy of their homes, regard for their parents, well-modulated voices, promptness, and foresight in making arrangements."
This film cost Coronet $11,000 to make, which brought the wrath of upper management down on Coronet's production team. It was remade (for $1,000) in 1958.
HIGH SCHOOL ADOLESCENTS TEENAGERS BOYS GIRLS MEN WOMEN SOCIAL GUIDANCE DATING GOING STEADY APPEARANCE DATES TELEPHONES MANNERS PARENTS HOUSES HOMES INTERIORS RECREATION POPULARITY LUNCHROOMS FOOD SEXUAL SOCIAL BEHAVIOR POPULARITY DATING PERSONALITY